The Castle on Oldham Street has been around for generations, and is perhaps most famous as the location for the oft-spouted John Peel interview with Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, circa 1979.
Only a few years ago I wouldn’t be recommending it for anything save a good scrap, and certainly not as a place where visitors should stick their noses in to get a flavour of Manchester. But good management can effect subtle changes and now you get the best of all worlds – trendy Northern Quarter dwellers, would-be (and full) members of the band and old skool Mancs with a Bohemian bent.
The Castle Hotel is best experienced by night. But gormless gadabouts and un-streetwise Japanese tourists might be better off visiting under cloak of daylight.
Mark E Smith
The late Mark E Smith was one-time regular at The Castle, though in recent years you were more likely to find him across the street. Anyhow, whilst we’re on Oldham Street I might as well tell a couple of good stories about the man.
The first took place one night further along the road at the Night and Day, where Mister Smith had been on a binge and was a bit the worse for wear. Anyhow, he got into the passenger seat of what he thought was the taxi he’d ordered, and told the driver to take him to Stockport. The grinning driver duly obliged, but reaching their destination, Smithy declared he had no money and threw his leather jacket into the car by way of payment.
What Mark didn’t realise was this was no taxi, and the driver none other than Michael Gough – AKA Badly Drawn Boy – who’d been sat innocently in his car on Oldham Street when The Fall Fella fell in: he just drove him for the craic.
To top the story off, a few days later Michael Gough went to his glove box looking for something, where he found Mark E. Smith’s false teeth!
Another good tale involves well-known Mancunian mosaic artist Mark Kennedy, who went with him to a gig in – I think – Liverpool. The band went out ahead of Mark E Smith and were on stage playing for quite a while (not unusual for The Fall). After what seemed like an uncomfortable amount of time, Mark Kennedy concernedly turned to the lead singer.
‘Don’t you think you’d better join them on stage?’ he asked.
‘Listen’, replied The Fall frontman, ‘leave the music to me and you stick to fuckin’ tiling!’